Nearly half of Americans say climate change has become a bigger threat

The increase in sea levels, extreme weather, and wildfires, some of it the result of climate change, has made nearly nearly half of Americans feel more threatened by the changing climate, a poll finds.

Also, for more than a third of Americans, that confluence of events is influencing decisions on where to live.

Those are the results of a National Geographic and Morning Consult poll of 2,200 American adults taken July 1-3.

The responses dovetail with those of readers to similar questions amid the West’s record-breaking heat and drought—and potent early-season wildfires. “We have been considering moving and areas that will suffer the least amount of weather disasters is the deciding factor,” Californian Andrea Venn says. “I had never considered moving to Wisconsin in my life and now that may be a choice. We have always loved living in California but I know the future here will be difficult.”

Smoke from the 68 large fires burning through 12 states, identified late Wednesday by the National Interagency Fire Center, is compromising air quality nearby, clouding skies, and producing eerily fiery sunrises and sunsets for tens of millions of Americans.

A majority of the youngest and the oldest groups of Americans polled (51 percent of those 18-34 years old and 52 percent of those 65 or over) say the extreme conditions have made them think climate change has become a bigger threat. Overall, 48 percent of Americans agree, and 32 percent say it is the same level it has always been.

Across regions, respondents in the Northeast (39 percent) and West (42 percent) are most likely to say that recent weather events have influenced their decision on where to live. However, this may be driven by those who live in urban areas (52 percent), who were among the most likely to say that it has had an influence on their decision.

Black (44 percent) and Hispanic (51 percent) respondents are more likely than white (33 percent) respondents to say the extreme weather events have influenced them to consider moving.

The overall poll has a 2 percent margin of error.

David Beard is National Geographic’s executive editor for newsletters.

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